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When Did Arcade Machines Become Popular?

When Did Arcade Machines Become Popular?

So many of us have fond memories of spending hours in an arcade playing all of the games there. They're a huge part of many people's childhoods. And even for those who don't remember them personally, they can still have a sort of nostalgia about them.

Arcade games are still around today, found not just in arcades but also in pubs, clubs, hotels and various other places. And it seems like they've been a thing forever, especially for anyone who grew up with them.

But just how long have they been around? When did arcade machines become popular?

pac man retro arcade machine

When Was the Arcade Machine Invented?

The first arcade video game was invented in 1971. By this time, arcade games were nothing new, but video games were definitely much more of a novelty.

Early arcade games and carnival games included coin-operated automated games and mechanical games that developed throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century.

In the 1930s and through to the 1960s, pinball machines were popular in arcades. These were often regarded to be games of luck, rather than skill, which led to them being banned in many places.

From the 1940s, electro-mechanical games began to evolve. By the late 1960s, many of these games had more complicated electronics and mechanical elements for a more immersive experience.

The development of these games overlapped with the introduction of arcade video games so both could be found in arcades.

Finally, in the early 1970s, video arcade games started to appear on the scene. The first video arcade game is recognised to be 'Computer Space', which was invented by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney who founded Atari.

However, their first success was with the game they released the following year, in 1972. 'Pong' is a game that many of us still recognise today. The table tennis game features two paddles, which the player controls to send a ball back and forth across the screen.

Who Made Arcade Machines?

Atari might have been the company to create the first video arcade machine but it certainly wasn't the only one.

Some arcade game makers in this early period include Sega, Williams, Bally, Midway and Taito, which had all been involved in making electro-mechanical games already.

In the late 1970s, the development of video games and arcade machines picked up the pace. Taito released 'Space Invaders' in 1978 and Namco created 'Pac-Man' in 1980, which are still two of the most popular and memorable arcade games of all time. Nintendo got involved with making arcade machines too, releasing 'Donkey Kong'.

Arcade Game Crash and Recovery

However, this golden age of video games didn't last long. The industry experienced a dip around 1983 due to the large number of games on the market and the growth of computers and home video game consoles. On top of this, there was something of a moral panic about the effect of games on young people, something that has never completely gone away!

But arcade machines made a comeback, with the market having recovered by 1986. New technology and new types of games helped to shore up the industry and made arcade games popular again.

At this point, software conversion kits became available and beat-'em-up games like 'Kung-Fu Master' became popular. Advanced motion simulator games also transformed the market, making games like Sega's 'Space Harrier' possible.

Arcade games had another dip towards the end of the 1980s, though, as home video games became more attainable and popular. But there were some pretty popular games in the 1990s, including multiple fighting games like 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Street Fighter II'.

Another technological advancement was the inclusion of 3D graphics. During this time,
arcade machines were typically more technologically advanced than home consoles, even if they didn't offer the convenience of being able to play in the comfort of your own home. In fact, arcade video games were the biggest part of the video game market.

Man playing arcade machine

The Decline of Arcade Machines

Nothing lasts forever and arcade machines started to see more of a decline in the late 1990s. The availability of home video consoles presented a different kind of competition.

1 in 5 global consumers owns or has access to a video games console. In response to this, arcades still operating today try to focus on providing experiences that can't be replicated at home.

Newer arcade video games that have been developed since then have typically featured specialised equipment or incorporated newer technology. For example, 'Dance Dance Revolution' is one more recent arcade game that is a pioneer in the genre of rhythm and dance games.

The Popularity of Arcade Machines Today

Like anything else from the past, there's plenty of nostalgia for arcade games. A lot of people who played them in their childhood want to have one in their home today.

The options for making this happen include finding a genuine vintage arcade cabinet or looking at modern versions of classic arcade machines. These modern machines can feature popular games from the past but also offer the benefits of today's technology, including saving electricity by using less power.

You can still find arcade machines both in dedicated arcades and in locations such as pubs. There are also some excellent museums dedicated to arcade games and machines in a number of places around the world.

In Perth,
The Nostalgia Box exhibits arcade games and video game consoles. If you're interested in pinball machines, the Australian Pinball Museum in Nhill, Victoria, has cabinets ranging from electro-mechanical games to LCD monitors. And at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, you'll find video game cabinets featuring the likes of 'Ms Pac-Man' and Atari's 'Basketball'.

Of course, you don't have to find an arcade or a museum to enjoy the very best arcade machines. If you want one in your home, you can buy one today.

Take a look at our collection of arcade machines to find the perfect item to complete your cave. Unlike older machines, you're not limited to one game. You can enjoy thousands on one machine.